Introduction

Why is it important?

Logistics in construction involve the procurement, transport, storage and disposal of construction materials. Construction activities tend to require sourcing of large quantities of materials, employ significant quantities of water and energy and require transportation of both materials and workers. Therefore procurement management without environmental considerations has potential to significantly impact the environment.

Environmental Impact

Resource depletion & Greenhouse gase emissions

Construction typically requires a high input of raw materials, water and energy. Embodied water, energy and carbon refer to the water and energy resources required to manufacture a product or to provide materials in a form that they can be used for construction..

Different materials can have a different embodied and carbon footprint depending on their properties and on the chosen suppliers. Contracted suppliers of goods and services may vary in terms of the extent to which they operate their businesses in an environmentally friendly way.

Transportation of construction equipment in diesel-powered Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) and materials is also a source of greenhouse gas emissions. The further the distance these need to travel, the higher the carbon footprint of the operation.

Onsite electricity production for powering construction is typically conducted through the use of diesel powered generators. These contribute to greenhouse gas emission and exacerbate climate change.

More Resource Depletion
Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is the goal of minimising the amount of energy needed to to do a specific task. If using a fossil fuel derived fuel source this directly reduces the amount of greenhouse gases released to the atmosphere. Whereas if using energy derived from renewable sources this reduces the load on the energy producing system. A classic example is that of using insulation to reduce the amount of energy needed to heat a building.

Increasing energy efficiency reduces demands on local energy supplies such as forestry (mitigating deforestation) or imported fuel sources. Energy is often derived from fossil fuels, using large amounts of energy increases greenhouse gase emissions.

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Greenhouse info
Greenhouse Gas Emissions

A greenhouse gas is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect which maintains the stable temperature of the Earth.

Since the Industrial Revolution there has been a 40% increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which is believed to be contributing to a change in the Earth’s climatic systems. Changes in this system is increasing the vulnerability of many populations.

Environmental degradation

In the absence of a life-cycle approach to construction materials and lack of recycling or reuse of construction waste, the latter can become a source of pollution and a health hazard.

Transport of construction material in Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV) can have an environmental impact as follows:

  • HGV transportation can create noise, air pollution and soil erosion;
  • Incorrect road construction can damage habitats and natural drainage;
  • Fuel needed for vehicles is a potential environmental risk if spilled
More Environmental Degradation Info
Environmental Degradation

A break down synopsis of the entire degradation section would be useful here.

Water pollution & Soil quality

If not disposed of appropriately, lead-acid batteries for powering construction can expose people to toxic lead components. Exposure to which, even in small amounts, can have serious health implications including brain and kidney damage.

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Water Pollution info
Water Pollution

Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies (e.g. lakes, rivers, oceans, aquifers and groundwater). Water pollution occurs when pollutants are discharged directly or indirectly into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compound.

Water pollution reduces security for a population by contaminating otherwise available clean water. It also increases stress on non-polluted water supplies which would antagonise local populations and increases costs due to a need to import fresh water – this also leads to greenhouse gas emissions

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Soil Quality info
Soil Quality

Soil quality reflects how well a soil performs the functions of maintaining biodiversity and productivity, partitioning water and solute flow, filtering and buffering, nutrient cycling, and providing support for plants and other structures. Soil management has a major impact on soil quality.

A reduction in soil quality reduces the environments ability to sequester water leading to an increased risk of flooding and reduces the environment’s ability to produce food, leading to an increased nutritional risk for local and displaced populations.

Resource depletion

A sudden increase in construction can potentially strain local construction material resources:

  • Wood: locally sourced wood can exacerbate deforestation which leads to soil erosion, loss of soil nutrients, loss of habitat, reduced localised water sequestering (increasing flood risk) & reduced carbon sequestering;
  • Stone (aggregate): increase in quarrying demand which reduces the water table, causes land clearing hence soil erosion, loss of habitat and pollution due to runoff.
  • Concrete: cement production is an energy intensive process and cement transportation fuel intensive, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
More Resource Depletion
Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is the goal of minimising the amount of energy needed to to do a specific task. If using a fossil fuel derived fuel source this directly reduces the amount of greenhouse gases released to the atmosphere. Whereas if using energy derived from renewable sources this reduces the load on the energy producing system. A classic example is that of using insulation to reduce the amount of energy needed to heat a building.

Increasing energy efficiency reduces demands on local energy supplies such as forestry (mitigating deforestation) or imported fuel sources. Energy is often derived from fossil fuels, using large amounts of energy increases greenhouse gase emissions.

Mitigation Strategies

Reverse logistics

Use lorries that are returning to depots (usually in or near large cities) to transport excess materials and packaging to where they can be used or properly disposed of. Returning excess materials to suppliers allows organisations to recapture their value.

Choosing suppliers

In order to choose material sourcing and suppliers such as to minimise the resource intensity of construction, consider the following:

  • Request embodied carbon and water data from suppliers
  • Conduct life-cycle assessment of materials
  • Consider environmental regulations of countries where manufacturing is taking place and materials are sourced from;
  • Investigate improved fleet efficiency in the logistics chain
  • Consider creating a ‘Greenhouse gas inventory’ to keep a track of the carbon footprint of construction;
  • Investigate purchasing of carbon offsets to compensate for excessive carbon production, financing carbon reduction activities elsewhere
  • Consider the longevity of the material. If it wears out faster it will require replacing which creates further demand; and
  • Investigate environmental policies and possible accreditation of suppliers, especially if they are large scale suppliers, prior to the response.

Working with suppliers to improve efficiencies in production and transportation can also reduce costs and reduce aid agencies and suppliers’ contribution to future humanitarian challenges due to environmental pollution.

Maximise use of local resources. This provides support for the local economy helping to increase rate of recovery, and also reduces the carbon footprint of construction:

  • Consider use of locally available or traditional construction materials and building techniques;
  • Compare energy use in local material production compared to energy for transport if material is imported instead;
  • Consider alternative material choices over imported materials; and
  • Develop programmes and/or strategies to improve local material production, benefitting local communities in the long-term.

Follow this link for information on environmental impact of different construction materials.

Recycling Potential

Aim for a reduction in material required, reuse where appropriate and recycling on materials after use. Consider repair or reuse of still usable infrastructure after disasters, especially in cases where the population is not displaced. Still functional infrastructure such as schools and hospitals could also be used to shelter people in order to avoid the construction of emergency or temporary shelters, following safety assessment to ensure structural integrity. These can prove to be useful temporary shelters, a less costly option and a locally contextualised shelter that is more suitable to the local climate and easier to maintain.

Energy efficiency and renewable generation

Energy consumption can be reduced through:

  • Reduction of transportation distances or procured materials can reduce the fuel intensity of construction;
  • Offering training to managers/contractors/labourers on minimization of wastage and energy consumption during construction;
  • Maximise the utilization of manual labour over mechanization – utilizing local skills and offering local employment opportunities; and
  • Maximising on potential for renewable energy generation on site (e.g. micro-wind, solar). Investment in such infrastructure can be useful beyond construction during camp operation.

Reducing a programme’s dependency on expensive fossil fuel resources can reduce long-term costs, but may require larger initial investment.

Water efficiency

Water used during construction can be reduced through:

  • Choice of construction materials that do not require water use during construction (e.g. preferring wood or compressed earth blocks over concrete); and
  • Offering training to managers/contractors/labourers on minimization of wastage and energy consumption during construction.

See the Water section in Design for information on Integrated Water Management.

Waste Management

Please see Solid Waste Management section of Design for environmental impact mitigation strategies through sound waste management.

Additional Resources

Logistics

Logistics Cluster – Green Logistics

Inter-University collaboration – Green Logistics and Reverse Logistics.

United Nations Environment Programme & TNT – Toolkit for Clean Fleet Strategy Development.

United Nations Environment Programme & Groupe URD – Module 8: Humanitarian logistics and the environment.

American Red Cross and WWF – Green Recovery and Reconstruction Training Toolkit – Module 5, Green Guide to Materials and the Supply Chain.

Reverse Logistics Association – Reverse Logistics.

Materials use

The Institute of Civil Engineers has produced a toolkit for international development and Best Practice documents.

WWF and American Red Cross – Green Recovery and Reconstruction Toolkit Module 5 – Green Guide to Materials and the Supply Chain.

Market analysis – EMMA Toolkit. An example here.

Practical Action – appropriate reconstruction and manufacturing and process industries

Practical Action – manufacturing and process industries.

SKAT – building material leaflets, 2006.

UNEP and RRCAP – Eco-housing: guidelines for tropical regions, “Building material and products” page 23.

URD and UNEP – training about environment throughout the project cycle.

The FSC has produced timber certification here.

The FAO has produce guidelines for forestry management.

The British Geological Survey has information on the environmental impact of quarrying here.

The Natural Resource Institute has information on the environmental impact of small scale mining here.

The UNEP have collated information about land and forest management here.

Green Spec – Description of embodied energy and values for various materials.

BRE – Green guide to Specification.

The Environment Agency UKguidance on hazardous waste.

UNHABITAT – Building Materials and Health.

The International Standards Organisation has produced ISO 14000 international standards for environmental management.

The Pro Act Network and Shelter Centre have produced a brief guide to construction waste.